using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : May 2015
What is stress? As another Stanford professor, Robert Sapolsky, likes to say, stress is a tool nature gave us to survive lion attacks. Of course, you’re not a primate on the African savannah menaced by lions. You’re a modern human who, for exam- ple, might be caught in a traffic jam. The spotlight of your attention—a mecha- nism built for a time when threats were much simpler—is focused only on your destination, which seems to be getting further and further away. The miracles that surround you escape your notice, like the fact that a trip that takes sixty minutes in your car would have taken your ancestors the better part of a day. So what do you do instead of appreci- ating the good things? Sitting in that traf- fic jam, you turn the other cars into lions, and you feel threatened. You might shout obscenities, or scare your kids by pound- ing on the steering wheel. And yet— somehow!—this activity does not make the cars move any faster. Instead, the stress hurts you and others, mentally and physically. This evolutionary confusion is one of the tragedies of modern life. You don’t need a Ph.D. to figure this out. Here’s an experiment you can per- form right now, as you read this article: Think about something stressful that happened to you during the past week. Now scan your body: How does your chest, stomach, or neck feel? Then think about something good that happened during the same period, however small. Now what happens in your body? Did you feel any difference, according to where your attention was focused? The research predicts that the stressful mem- ory caused you physical discomfort—and it also predicts that too much long-term stress can take years off of your life, with- out fixing the problem. Your tight chest and clenched stomach doesn’t make the world a better place. In fact, it can make everything worse. So what can you do? How do you bring out the good in yourself when your savan- nah-bred instincts tell you to scream and run people over with your car? Counting the Good Things Science has an answer, and it starts with counting. The questions you have to ask yourself are these: • Am I counting the good things, too? • Am I taking the time to shine light on things that make me happy and give my life meaning? • Who thanked me today? • To whom did I feel grateful? • What acts of kindness or cooperation did I witness? This is the essence of that much- maligned term “positive thinking”: we make it a goal to count the good things in life. That doesn’t mean we ignore the bad. Undeniably there are threats in the world, to our own well-being and that of others. There are also threats within ourselves—selfishness, laziness, short- sightedness, and so on. But all too often our negativity bias leads us to see only the bad, in other people as well as in ourselves. When we try to think positively, we are making a conscious, cognitive effort to correct for our natural and understand- able negativity bias. By counting the good things, we see reality more clearly. Sometimes, seeing the good takes enormous personal strength, because we need to overcome the great power of the stress-induced, fight-or-flight response. Let’s go back to the Stanford Prison experiment—and the career of Philip Zimbardo. His work didn’t stop in 1971. As the decades went on, Zimbardo moved beyond evil. He started asking himself how to cultivate the good in people. In recent years, he has studied heroism, the willingness to make sacri- fices on behalf of other people. “The two lines of research aren’t as different as they might seem; they’re actually two sides of the same coin,” writes Zimbardo on the Greater Good website. He continues: 34 PHOTOBYJELENAJOJIC/STOCKSYUNITEDPHOTO©PHOTAWA/DREAMSTIME.COM SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 60